This weekend sees the 17th annual Petit Le Mans, from Road Atlanta. The race has become effectively one of the classics of the endurance racing calendar in an incredibly short amount of time, when compared to other classics such as the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24 and the Sebring 12 hours. This year sees the first year in which the race has run under the IMSA Tudor United Sportscar Championship banner.
Ok so the prototype qualifying was rather disruptive due to the two red flags the session created, unfortunately not much was too see in terms of lap time changes.
Firstly as the session began, unfortunately the new Oak Ligier JSP2 ground to a halt out on track, leading to the first red flag for recovery, ending Alex Brundle’s qualifying attempt. The second red flag was then caused by a bizarre incident. The #07 Mazda Skyactive P2 spinning at turn three and ending in the escape road, as the driver found his bearings to return to the track, and with the corner under yellow flag conditions, the #9 action express entrant of the frisselle brothers, locked the brakes and hit the side of the #07 heavily damaging both cars.
The recovery and track cleaning therefore took time technically leading to the session time expiring, however IMSA rightly decided to extend the session beyond it’s expired time, so as to allow for some actual competitive times to be set.
Christian Fittipaldi set pole position at 1.14.552 for Action-Express Corvette DP #5 from the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP entry, and the Spirit of Daytona. The prototype qualifying result also saw an impressive drive by Katherine Legge, in the Deltawing DWC-13, eventually qualifying 5th overall.
In PC, the battle was far more intense for pole position, with Tom Kimber-Smith from Colin Braun and Gunner Jeanette, as the session progressed, Gunner Jeanette went to first.
As Gunner Jeanette’s lap times improved, Bruno Junqueira meanwhile placed his RSR Racing entry into 4th. Then the swapping for the top position began between Jack Hawksworth and Tom Kimber-Smith, with approximately three minutes of the session remaining, Hawksworth set the lap set a provisional pole lap at 1.16.282, giving him provisional pole back from Kimber-Smith however the fun wasn’t over yet.
As the chequered flag flew, Hawksworth, Tom Kimber Smith, Bruno Junqueira and Braun where still able to improve, leading to Yorkshireman Hawksworth solidifying his pole at 1.16.210 meanwhile Tom Kimber-Smith looked to finish qualifying in second. However in the final moments of the session, Bruno Junqueira put in an incredible lap, placing himself second with Kimber-Smith unable to respond, giving the RSR racing team, a 1-2 in PC qualifying.
The GT LM class, saw the results settled relatively early, from the offset, it was Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR) from Giancarlo Fisichella (Ferrari 458 Italia) and Jonathan Bomarito (SRT Viper GTS-R) leading the challengers.
An impressive drive from Bryan Sellers in the Falken Tyre Porsche entry temporally saw them challenge the top three with four and a half minutes to go at 1.18.807, eventually dropping to fourth. The confidence of the top three eventually allowed them to pit with 3.45 of the session remaining, with no improvements from anyone behind forthcoming. Meanwhile the session was tough for Corvette Racing, Oliver Garcia placing Corvette #3 into 6th position in class whilst the sister car starts 9th.
In GT Daytona, it was another pole position for the #007 Aston Martin V12 Vantage entry with Alex Davison behind the wheel followed by the #58 Porsche 911 GT America entry driven in the session by Jan Heylen with the #73 Porsche starting third. Meanwhile Mario Farnbacher placed the Team Seattle-AJR entry whom he shares with Ian James and Alex Riberas in sixth, whilst the Scuderia Corsa #63 entry had a difficult session starting 15th in class.
The Race is live from 11am ET, internationally available on IMSA.com including inside the USA, with a 10 hour race length scheduled, It’s one of my favourites of the year.